School Outreach Specialist's Story

(about a 7th grade boy)


I will never forget the face of a 7th grade boy  

who told me he was thinking of suicide. This is something CHADS' school presenters and counselors hear often; and though it is hard to hear, it is actually good that these young people are talking, usually for the first time.

It was the end of the presentation about signs and symptoms of depression and suicide. I was explaining to the class that after learning more about the subject they now had a chance to confidentially state if they were worried about themselves or a friend by checking a box on a small slip of paper. As I was walking around the room, I caught his face; tears welling in his eyes and lips trembling. I could tell he didn't want to break down. I lightly put my hand on his desk and quietly asked, "Would you like to go in the hall and talk?" He grabbed his things and raced out of the room. I followed. He was so scared. He looked up at me with his sweet face just barely crying, waiting for me to help him. In the beginning he didn't want any teacher or counselor to be there, so just him and I talked. After I told him he is doing the right thing by talking and he calmed down a little bit, he revealed to me he thinks about suicide often. He tightly hugged his book bag as he told me he thought of how he would do it. He said he never told anyone else except for one friend, and that friend never told anyone. He couldn't tell me exactly why he felt this way. He was terrified of the idea of telling his parents. He started getting more upset when I asked about them and was confident they wouldn't understand. At the end of our conversation he was feeling better and decided he would be willing to talk to his school counselor if I would go with him. A few hours later I checked back in and he was sitting in the office waiting for his dad to come. Smiling. He already talked to him on the phone and was feeling relieved. I was so proud of him. I was so happy he told.

This is just one of the many moments that stick out to me as a school outreach presenter for CHADS Coalition for Mental Health. I wish no young person ever had to feel this scared and alone. I think, what if CHADS didn't go to his school that day? Would he have ever told anyone else? How long would he have gone on feeling this way? What if it got to be too much for him to handle? This is why I am so thankful for CHADS.

When John reached adulthood, it seemed as if the worst of his troubles were over. John fell in love and got married. Soon afterwards, he welcomed his first son into the world. Everything seemed on track for the time being, and he seemed extremely happy. However, this peaceful time in John’s life did not last long. Problems developed in his marriage; alcohol played a major role and conflict became a daily occurrence. John’s wife eventually left him, and took their son with her. John was alone once more and slipped further into depression. Jessica recalls that her family knew that John had been struggling during this time, but was unaware of the severity of his depression. At this point, he had completely isolated himself from everyone who cared about him. After spending several months in isolation, John took his own life. He was twenty-seven years old.

Although John passed away over ten years ago, his family will never be the same. Jessica’s mother and other family members seek peace through support groups. Jessica prefers a more hands-on approach. She now serves on CHAS Young Professionals Board, where she helps to organize fundraisers for suicide awareness. Jessica states that although it cannot bring her brother back, she finds “solace and healing through action,” where she has the opportunity to help others in similar situations.